There's a reason I don't have house plants. I kill them. Over-water, under-water, too much sun, too much shade. I kill them. I tried to put in a vegetable garden with my son last summer, and there were no carrots, pumpkins, peppers, cucumbers, or tomatoes to be had. We were lucky to get a dozen strawberries.
So it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Rainbow, our family's betta fish, died way before his time. Betta fish can live up to seven years. Ours lasted SIX. HOURS.
I joked on the radio that afternoon that the over/under would be two weeks. He made it six hours.
To be honest, it wasn't really my fault, the pump guard had broken off in the box. The fish was going to get sucked up there Finding Nemo style no matter what. If it hadn't happened the first night, it would have been the next.
But it happened the first night. While the children were asleep.
I was working on the couch, and was Rainbow swimming silently on the counter behind me when I heard the scrooooch sound. You know when the dentist gives you that suction thing to move around your mouth and get the saliva out?
Yeah. That sound. Scccroooooch!
I knew it was bad. Right away, I knew. I went over to the tank, and couldn't see him anywhere. I didn't have the guts to open the filter box to see his guts spilled, so I called to my wife in the basement.
"Jen! Come up here and see if it's still alive!!"
I cracked the lid and she she poked at it with a spoon, a grimace on her face. "He's dead," my much-manlier-than-I wife winced.
It was 9 PM. Immediately we both knew what we had to do—lie.
We scrambled for the receipt to call the pet store to see if I could run down to get a replacement. Sure, it was closing time, but we didn't want to have to face our kids at breakfast tomorrow. It's not explaining death to them that we didn't want to face (our eldest knows his great-grandmother is dead), it was the disappointment. We just didn't want to have to deal with a disappointed tantrum first thing on a school day over a dead fish we had had for six hours, so we conspired to put things back they were.
We called the store, and thankfully they picked up and agreed to let me come down.
Laura at the West Hills Petland Pets got a customer for life. She could be charged as a co-conspirator in this grand ruse. After all, she did enable a panicked dad to come down after hours to get a replacement fish to lie to his kid!! Still, she answered the phone when her shop was closed, hung around for 30 minutes more, and helped me avoid the inevitable drama that would have unfolded in the morning.
To clear my conscience, I'm putting this situation in the same box as the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa, and The Elf on the Shelf. It's not a big deal, it's just to make things easier. Parents do it all the time. Still, I'm lying.
I got a replacement fish that was just as orange as Rainbow, with a little less blue on the tail. He was the same size, same shape, same breed, just a little less colour.
My sons are nearly five and just two. They won't notice. Right?